Some folks—especially those who are new to business or who have limited marketing experience—operate under the “if you build it, they will come” misperception about business logos.
They may buy business cards online, choose a snazzy piece of clip art to go with their information, hand out cards, and then sit back and wait for the business to roll in.
If Only It Were That Easy
Let’s examine a few mistakes in this more-common-than-you-think example above. First, if you’re buying business cards before your logo is professionally designed, you’re already putting the cart before the horse. Your logo and brand identity guide should be major factors affecting your purchase decision. With the wide array of choices available for cards, you can select different paper thicknesses, colors, sizes, textures, shapes, and finishes, as well as font colors and styles. Will selecting an ordinary, standard card spell doom for your business? Probably not… but it's also not going to help it that much either. A plain card won’t stand out as different and/or professional, so it’s likely not to be remembered, and therefore, not used.
Clip Art? Noooooo
Second, using clip art on your card is likely to result in your business having the exact same piece of clip art as a similar business in the same industry. For example, let’s say your business is Top Notch Grass Cutting, LLC. While "designing" your card online, you choose a pre-made template using lawnmower clip art. You think, It’s easy to create, it shows what I do, and I didn’t have to pay a designer to come up with a logo unique to my business. Woo hoo! These will be awesome!
Guess what? Across town, the owner at Good Lookin’ Yards, Inc. is sitting down to order his business cards. And he or she is thinking the same thing you did… selecting the standard size, the least expensive paper, choosing green fonts (green for grass, of course… just like you thought), and using the very same template and clip art. Now, whose card will stand out and be remembered? Most likely, neither one. Worse yet, you might be mistaken for each other if folks can only recall the visual and not your business name.
Clip Art? Still Nooooo
Cost is an issue for almost everyone. And often, you have to start somewhere, even if you aren’t able to afford a professional design yet. However, it is our strong advice that you do not use any clip art on your business cards at all. Until you are able to afford a professionally created logo unique to your business, it is better to use none at all. Why is this important?
- As we said, other businesses are likely to use the same artwork, further reinforcing that your business is no different than the others.
- Even if you really like the clip art, you can never trademark it for your business. You don’t own it and never will. AND if you decide to sell t-shirts, hats, etc. using that clip art, you are potentially exposing yourself to a copyright lawsuit, depending on the fine print.
- If you use clip art to start your business, and then later have a logo of your own designed, you’ve now got an inconsistent brand identity floating around. Confusing customers about who they’re dealing with is not a good idea.
- It’s better to use that logo space on your card to briefly spell out what you do and why you’re different, rather than use it for artwork that will not serve you well.
Shaking Hands, Kissing Babies
And finally, face-to-face interactions are probably the best ways to market yourself using business cards. If you have your “elevator speech” ready, you can impress upon someone clearly and simply why they need your services. Hopefully, your charisma will help them remember you when they need a service your business can provide. However, unless you’re handing out cards at networking events and other social gatherings, you don’t really have the time nor geographic reach to do this on the scale needed to grow your business fast.
Ideally, your business cards should be included with any direct mail pieces you send so that, once your mail piece has been read, the card remains with the prospect. People will often keep a card for later reference. They’re not as likely to save a flyer or brochure once they’ve sifted through their mail. Your card should be visually consistent with your logo and your type of business. It should also be consistent with your website and any other marketing collateral.
Pulling It All Together
As you can see, the need for design integration starts with your logo, reflecting your industry, your personality, and your business’s uniqueness. From there, your card size, shape, paper, colors, etc. will all be influenced by and integrate with your logo. And moving outwards, your cards should have a consistent brand identity with your website and all other marketing collateral.
Creating a strong brand identity is not merely about having a good logo. But it tends to be the visual focus around which other marketing collateral revolves. It's not fair to expect a common piece of clip art to do the work of a professionally designed logo. Consistently integrating a strong, unique logo into your marketing goes a long way toward building your brand identity and reinforcing positive connections that will be remembered by your prospects and customers.